Bennett Holds Netanyahu to His Word on Override Bill

YERUSHALAYIM -
Knesset High Court
Naftali Bennett, Israeli Minister of Education and chairman of the Jewish Home party. (Marc Israel Sellem/Pool)

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition partners have at various times cited clauses in the coalition agreement when seeking support from the Likud-led majority for their legislative proposals. But Jewish Home leader Naftali Bennett went a step further on Monday, tweeting an image of the text itself for all to see.

The bill drafted by Jewish Home would enable a simple majority of 61 Knesset members to reinstate a law struck drown by the High Court.

“Our demand to legislate the version [of the bill] that has 61 MKs is no surprise,” Bennett wrote on Monday. “Likud is signed on an explicit coalition agreement with us. Agreements must be honored. I expect Likud’s full support this coming Sunday. We’ll bring back the correct balance between the [legislative and judicial] authorities.”

The relevant section of the coalition agreement which Bennett posted says that at least 8 of 15 High Court judges must vote to strike down a law passed by the Knesset.

It also authorizes the Knesset to override the Court by re-enacting legislation after a ruling that it violates Israel’s Basic Law. The Knesset override can be implemented for the duration of that parliament’s term, plus another two years into the next term.

PM Netanyahu, who initially endorsed a version of the bill patterned after the British model, which limits the Court to a mere advisory capacity on legislation, has since wavered, and withdrawn the bill to allow more time for deliberation.

A meeting he held recently with former High Court president Aharon Barak, father of the “activist” Court, was seen as a sign that PM Netanyahu is leaning toward a more moderate version, or scrapping the idea altogether. Currently, he is said to be interested in discussing the matter further with Court president Esther Hayut.

Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has opposed Bennett’s simple majority version, and said last week he would only consider supporting a bill that requires 70 MKs to vote down the Court.